It all began in the fall of 2017.
UHD publicly announced an ambitious campaign — UHD Here, We Go — to raise $25 million by 2020. With already $21.2 million under its belt, the University was well on its way to exceeding its goal. The campaign's mission was clear: inspire our community, serve our students and build a stronger institution for Houston through three priorities: scholarships, community engagement and facilities.
The Campaign officially concluded at the end of August 2020 with more than $32.9 million, including five donations of $1 million or more — exceeding UHD's $25 million campaign goal by 33 percent — thanks to over 4,480 donors (including 3,300 first-time donors).
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) recognized the University for the first time ever with the
2019 CASE Educational Fundraising Award for similarly sized public comprehensive institutions.
Amy Buck, Deltra Hayes, and Dr. Miriam Morales share qualities reminiscent of their grit as alumni. This trio recognized that their alma mater fueled their successful careers, which in turn enabled them to give back.
The economic downturn of the 80's forced Amy Buck ('90) to return home and transfer to UHD during her third year of college.
"I came from a family that wasn't well off. My grandfather couldn't read or write," Buck said. "My mother was a college graduate, who placed great emphasis that you don't go anywhere without a college degree. She mandated that all her children get a college degree. We all worked, went to school and paid for our education."
The self-described Northside girl was taught that you had to have an education to take care of yourself. With that in mind, Buck created the Amy R. Buck Scholarship Endowment Scholarship with Wells Fargo (Buck has worked for Wells Fargo for the past 35 years) because "what we do today as individuals gives payback for the next generation and education is the key to success."
"I started the scholarship because I know firsthand how hard and difficult it is to work and attend school," said the Vice President of Wells Fargo. "I'm appreciative of the fact that I wouldn't have been where I am today in my career without my UHD degree. I've been truly blessed."
Deltra Hayes ('00) relocated to Houston during her senior year of college. Recently married with a husband, who just graduated from college, Hayes decided to find a job.
"Ten years later, I had two children, and I realized that I was missing opportunities by not having an undergraduate degree," said Hayes. "UHD was the perfect environment that offered flexibility as a wife and mother, and it was known as a school for returning adult students."
The Finance degree graduate, who furthered her education with an MBA, decided to establish an endowment for students in the Marilyn Davies College of Business.
As a first-generation student and mathematics major at UHD, Miriam Morales ('01) recalled that there weren't many scholarships available in her discipline or for part-time students. In 2015, she established the Miriam Morales Scholarship Endowment for mathematics, statistics, and data analytics students.
She understood too well the challenges of working full-time and attending school part-time, "I wanted to create a scholarship that was both for the discipline and specifically included part-time students."
When encouraging fellow alumni to give back, Morales offers this:
Thanks to the Campaign, nearly $9 million is earmarked for UHD student scholarships. Throughout the University, many students are receiving the financial assistance they need to support their academic, professional and future successes.
The C.T. Bauer Foundation awarded a $455,000 grant to fund full scholarships for students in their junior and senior years in the Marilyn Davies College of Business. The Ted Bauer Undergraduate Business Scholarships provides 25 students with two years of funding, $18,000 to each scholarship recipient ($9,000 for their junior year and another $9,000 to cover their senior year), as long as they maintain the scholarship academic requirements.
Three years ago, UHD was one of eight Texas institutions to receive a grant from the
Greater Texas Foundation's (GTF) Scholars Program. UHD was awarded $1.44 million dollars to be paid over eight years for student scholarships and academic support for graduates of Texas Early College High Schools (ECHSs). It's the first scholarship program in the state to dedicate funds specifically to graduates of ECHSs designed to provide traditionally underserved students the opportunity to earn 60 credit hours toward a post-secondary degree at no cost to the student through dual-credit courses.
"The future looks very promising for these students, and we eagerly await to see what the incoming 2020 GTF Scholars will show us of their scholastic prowess," said Branden Kuzmick, UHD Greater Texas Foundation Scholars Program Coordinator housed in University College.
According to Kuzmick, five scholars from the 2018 cohort graduated in the Spring 2020 semester — the first since the program's inception. Two are preparing for law school, another is completing a semester of prerequisites for graduate school toward a Ph.D., and another scholar completed degree requirements and graduated in Fall 2020.
The Greater Texas Foundation also awarded a $555,402 grant to the University that will support its efforts with
United For College Success in providing pathways to higher education for students from low-income families.
UHD's Alumni Association created an innovative avenue for its Gators to give back that will
pave the way for future students. Students, faculty, staff, friends, donors and alumni were invited to purchase a personalized brick paver to be displayed in the new Alumni Plaza — all proceeds from this campaign will directly fund the University's newly endowed Alumni Legacy Scholarship. The first recipient of this scholarship was awarded last fall.
Across the nation, colleges and universities are under pressure to help students pay for their education as complications related to the pandemic create financial burdens.
UHD was ready when Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston. Students and their families were displaced and day-to-day survival was paramount. In response, the University created the Gator Emergency Fund (formerly the Gator Relief Fund), which is supported by private donations from alumni, faculty, staff, friends and corporate and foundation partners. Their support assists with costs such as rent, groceries, bills, tuition and more.
The Fund didn't end with Harvey three years ago. Since the pandemic began, hundreds of students have received more than $180,000 from generous donors seeking to enable students to continue their education while meeting life's necessities.
The impact of COVID in Greater Houston revealed an opportunity for PNC Bank and UHD to address students' educational technology needs through a gift that will provide students with Internet connectivity.
PNC Bank made a gift of $20,000 to the UHD's Gator Emergency Fund.
"The pandemic affected my family's income," said
UHD Senior Alan Modrow. "Assistance from the Gator Emergency Fund greatly helped us. I know it's also greatly impacting other students' lives right now. No matter the amount, anything helps right now."
Modrow was ineligible for federal assistance, so he is particularly grateful for UHD's efforts to support its students. Even before COVID-19, he received assistance from UHD to support his academic ambitions.
Members of the University Community came together by reaching out to more than 8,000 students to learn their needs through its C.A.R.E. initiative. Current students received calls from faculty, staff and students to gain valuable insight on ways UHD could help. [See
The Gator Network in this issue.]
Partnering with corporate donors to provide opportunities for students, faculty and staff to engage with local communities is a UHD tradition. For the last five years, the Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning has supported communities of color and under-represented populations through outreach and engagement with a dual mission to help its communities while providing real-world experience ... a win-win.
This past summer, CCESL hosted its inaugural
Union Pacific - UHD Community Internships Initiative. A $15,000 grant through the Union Pacific Foundation's Union Pacific Railroad Community Ties Giving Program provided financial assistance to students, fulfilled internship requirements in certain departments, and addressed community needs. The funds made it possible for eight students to serve in safe, remote internships at nonprofits in some of Houston's most high-opportunity communities. Seventeen additional internships were made possible through other resources for a total of 25.
UHD Biology student Mona Farley was recently awarded a
Wells Fargo Student Impact Scholarship, which was specifically aimed at students who have been affected by the pandemic. Learning of the scholarship through CCESL, she is the first student at UHD to receive this recognition, and she belongs to a select group of recipients from more than 19,000 applicants.
"I am grateful to God to have been awarded this scholarship. Words cannot express how happy and grateful I am. This scholarship will alleviate my financial struggles and help me focus on my academics," Fraley said.
UHD experienced the most successful building campaign in its history.
"The footprint of the University of Houston-Downtown is changing and people are taking note of our growth," said UHD Interim President Antonio D. Tillis, Ph.D. "Each day, thousands of Houstonians who travel along Main Street see the impact UHD is having on the city's creative landscape."
The University officially broke ground on the site of its new College of Sciences & Technology (CST) Building in 2017. Spanning 105,000 square feet as the University of Houston System's only LEED Gold-certified building (rated for its energy-saving design and sustainable features), the $73 million building serves as a model for sustainability in Houston. The building houses the disciplines of Biology, Biotechnology, Biological & Physical Sciences and Chemistry and also is the new home for UHD's Center for Urban Agriculture & Sustainability (CUAS), which is focused on promoting sustainable communities in Houston and beyond.
Complementing these green elements is the addition of solar panels that will power two environmental labs — one of which will be named the Green Mountain Energy Sun Club Environmental Science Laboratory—made possible by a $250,000 gift. In 2020, the Green Mountain Energy Sun Club announced that this contribution to UHD marked $10 million in total sustainability grants to nonprofit organizations supporting projects focused on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and resource and environmental conservation.
With nearly 30 laboratories for teaching and research, high tech classrooms, meeting/study spaces, and a café, the CST Building—designed by Kirksey Architecture and constructed by Vaughn Construction—will develop future scientists and serve as a center for community engagement. The generosity of a number of corporate, foundation and individual donors will enable research and teaching in the sciences within three research lab suites, several huddle and write-up rooms.
Another key feature of the building's interior is the Mark & Tami Mallett Grand Lobby that welcomes visitors and community members and connects to the Fondren Commons via a public hallway with a 60-foot mural highlighting the development of Texas agriculture. The Mallett Grand Lobby hosts the café and the Fondren Commons offers a place for gatherings and events.
One year after opening its doors, the CST Building is among the winners of the Houston Business Journal's Landmark Awards taking top honors in the Education category for making an immediate impact on the community.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held for UHD's upcoming campus addition,
the Student Wellness & Success Center, assuring current and prospective students that they will have expanded resources for fitness, recreation, wellness, and of course, learning.
In 2017, Houston entrepreneur Marilyn Davies gave UHD's College of Business a $10 million endowment. In honor of this contribution, UHD renamed the College in her honor as the Marilyn Davies College of Business. Davies took classes at South Texas Junior College, which later became UHD, and though she completed her studies elsewhere, her son and brother are alumni. She recognized the difference the University made in their lives and she wanted to pay it forward. For those who may consider following in her footsteps, Davies offers these words of encouragement: "First you learn, then you earn ... then, you return."
The impact of donor generosity is evident across campus to support UHD and the broader community with naming opportunities and renovations, including the renovation of the Wilhelmina Cullen Robertson Auditorium and the naming of the TDECU Tour in the Welcome Center (a host site for important conversations such as the Gator Grit Speaker Series, UHD Town Halls and the Center for Public Deliberation's Candidates Meet & Greet).
"Since 2015, TDECU has been a steadfast partner to UHD, helping the University's community engagement efforts, actively building bridges to recruit Gators as employees and interns, and creatively supporting our staff and students," said Lipp.
Since opening its doors more than 45 years ago, UHD is known as an institution that is dedicated to the communities it serves by engaging and encouraging stakeholders to grow higher education across the region. In turn, these stakeholders contribute to the University's mission of expanding and opportunities for current and future students for academic and ultimately, professional success. UHD's history-making campaign is part of a $1 billion systemwide effort created to change the lives of its students, the city, state and nation through education.
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